Renegades

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Chapter 3

To Bear, 15 March 1943

You should know that I’m barely even allowed to write letters to my own family in case of betrayal, so this is illegal in so many ways. No matter how much I disagree with the laws, I always try to follow them because I know what they do to the people who don’t. And I believe you do too.

Speaking of illegal… I heard that some of the officers at your school had their hats stolen yesterday. They’re looking for a suspect, so they’re interviewing the teachers and other soldiers. I haven’t said a word, but I know it’s you. I don’t know how you did it, little Dane, but I know it was you.

From Lion.

To Lion, 16 March, 1943

You can prove nothing…

Also you’ve wasted an entire letter and told me nothing about yourself so… What’s your favorite color?

From Bear.

To Bear, 17 March 1943

This is serious. Another poster was delivered to the German office today. Again, I didn’t say anything, but I know it’s you. Though I must say, the images on it are scaring me a bit. They make me think you probably know more than you’re supposed to. And that is why they’re so interested in catching the culprit. You know too much, Dane.

They’ve figured out that it’s a student already. I’m not sure they know from which school, but it won’t be long before they find out. I understand you’re upset, but I don’t want to see you get in trouble. And coming from the family that you come from… well, let’s just say we don’t want to think about the consequences if you’re discovered. So I’m asking you to stop—both with the stealing and the vandalism. I’m not telling you this as a soldier; I’m asking you this as a friend.

My favorite color is blue.

From Lion.

To Lion, 21 March 1943

I thought I asked you to tell me a story, not tell me how to live my life. If so, this is a pretty lame story because I don’t know what you’re talking about.

But let’s say, purely hypothetically of course, that it was me… I’d have my own reasons and I wouldn’t need you to tell me otherwise. Yes, I know stuff I’m not meant to know, but it’s hard to turn off your ears when the conversations are happening in your own home.

But enough about me. Blue is a beautiful color. Have you heard from your family lately? How are they?

From Bear.

To Bear, 23 March 1943

I’m not sure you fully understand what will happen if they discover you, or else you would have stopped. If you’re found out, there will be repercussions for me too because I’m keeping your secret. It’s just not worth it.

And I have not heard from my family for many weeks. I wish I knew the answer.

From Lion.

To Lion, 25 March 1943

You don’t need to protect me you know. I’m sixteen, not a child—I can take care of myself.

And I’m sorry about your family. That must be hard, the not knowing. My family is still with me, but I do worry about them, especially with my father’s job. It’s not safe, knowing all that he does.

I assume the thing you miss most about being here is your family, but is there anything that you like about Denmark? I could do with some cheering up.

From Bear.

To Bear, 26 March 1943

It’s funny you should ask that because when I first came here, I was sure I wouldn’t find anything I liked. I hated even the air I breathed for the first few weeks.

But there is one thing I like, and of course it’s food. Those little pastry shells with the fish balls are pretty good. I can’t remember how to spell the name.

From Lion.

To Lion, 30 March 1943

I saw you yesterday. You looked sad and I wanted to ask you what was wrong, but I was scared. I’m sorry.

It was strange seeing that—emotions on a soldier. We’re not that different. I guess I knew that already, but I just seem to forget sometimes.

(By the way, the food you’re talking about is called tarteletter and it’s probably the best thing Denmark’s got going for it. That and beer. Have you tried the beer?)

From Bear.

To Bear, 31 March 1943

My brother is turning fifteen today. I’ve sent him a letter, but it will never be the same. Next year he’ll be old enough for the draft. It’s not fair—he shouldn’t be seeing this stuff yet. He’s just a kid.

I’m sure you understand. You’re right around his age, so you must. I don’t know where they’ll send him yet. I was lucky to come here—he could be sent out to dig trenches in Holland or Russia.

I’m not meant to be telling you this. I’m not even meant to be thinking about it, but I can’t help it. I’m so scared he won’t return. I’m scared I won’t return. I’ve already spent three years in this hell. You’re so lucky, little Dane. At least you got to grow up, and for that I’m jealous.

From Lion.

To Lion, 2 April 1943

The war has taken things away from everyone throughout the years. Not just our lives and loved ones, but our creativity and freedom too. The right to feel, the right to love, the right to speak. I’m walking around in constant fear now, same as you. It was no childhood.

I’m really sorry about your brother. I do think about that sometimes. If I were German, I’d have been enlisted in the war too, not just a hostage like I am now. I’d have been like you. Actually, I think I’d have been just like you. You’re not like the other soldiers and I don’t really know how to treat you because I want to hate you, but I can’t.

From Bear.

To Bear, 3 April 1943

I’m glad you say I’m not like them. With my head held high, I can proudly say that I’m against everything I’m meant to stand for. Everything my uniform tells me to be. This whole idea of a ‘pure race’ that they try to shove down our throats is disgusting and it makes me sick.

I believe that everything is here for a reason—we just have to find out which. But a war like this forbids you from forming your own opinions.

It stops you from being your own.

From Lion.

To Lion, 6 April 1943

I don’t like you being here. You’re making me more and more uncomfortable as the days pass by. Not you personally, but your people. They follow me. I think they know, or maybe I’m just paranoid. I’m afraid to breathe wrong anymore.

But I can’t stop doing what I’m doing. The world needs to know what’s truly happening, and I have the ability to let them know. So I can’t stop. It’s stupid, I know, to think that I’m making a difference, but I have to try.

What else can I do?

From Bear.

To Lion, 9 April 1943

I cried today. My mum caught me sneaking in and I’m afraid she’s going to tell my father. I lied to her and told her I was just going to the woods to get away for a while. I don’t know if she believes me.

My world is falling apart, German. The whole world is falling apart.

From Bear.

To Lion, 14 April 1943

I haven’t seen you in a while. You would have told me if you were going back to Germany, wouldn’t you? Maybe you’re just busy working somewhere. My dad wants to take me to the German barracks soon, and I don’t know why. I don’t want to go, it’s too close.

But I hope you’re okay.

From Bear.

To Lion, 17 April 1943

I didn’t see you.

From Bear.

To Lion, 19 April 1943

The air raid alarms went off yesterday. You probably know. Of course you know—everyone does. My dad says it was the German bombers. There was a meeting here with the officers right after it happened. I was hiding the whole time, but I heard everything. My dad was so angry and frustrated—it was scary to listen to.

You weren’t here though, and you haven’t answered me in a while. I’m not blaming you if you’re scared. I’m scared too.

The war is getting closer.

From Bear.

To Lion, 20 April 1943

I’m drunk, so I’m sorry if you can’t read my writing. I guess I just needed to be drunk for a while. This is my first time—can you tell? I stole the bottle from my dad’s office. He was out, so I snuck in and took it. Why do people drink this stuff? It’s disgusting. I guess you just drink disgusting things to get rid of disgusting thoughts… Isn’t that how it works? I just want to pretend there’s no war, no killing, and no controlling.

Impossible.

From Bear.

To Bear, 23 April, 1943

Hamburg has been destroyed. I got the information last week. I’m from Hamburg—my whole family lives in Hamburg—and I’m not there to protect them, even though I promised to do so. Do you know how that feels?

I don’t even know if they’re still alive, and I don’t know how I should find out since there’s nothing left down there. That’s why I haven’t answered you. I wanted to, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. We’re talking as friends and it’s wrong. I could have lost my whole family and I don’t even know.

We’re not safe anymore.

From Lion.

To Lion, 24 April, 1943

I am so sorry. I wish there was something I could do to help, but all I can do is to hope they’re okay.

Wars break promises. There’s nothing we can do about it, but that doesn’t make you a bad person for being here. You will go back, Lion. And when you do they’ll be standing there, ready to welcome you.

For the first time, I don’t see Germans as monsters.

From Bear.

To Bear, 26 April 1943

But I am a bad person because I listen to them. I follow orders, even when I know they’re wrong. I help them to do horrible things and I know it. I am a monster.

I’m sorry on behalf of my entire country—on behalf of this universe. No one asked for this.

From Lion.

To Bear, 26 April 1943

Now it’s my turn to be drunk, but this is definitely not my first time. People say you should drink to push the pain away, but I believe it’s the other way around. Drink to feel it properly first. Drink to feel it so much that it becomes intolerable to the point that you can’t think about it anymore without breaking down. Look what this war has done to us. It’s turned us into machines. We must drink to remember how to be human again.

From Lion.

To Lion, 29 April 1943

I like you, no matter what your country stands for, because I know you believe in something else. And I know you’re not lying because you’ve proven it to me. I’ll never forget that.

From Bear.

To Bear, 1 May, 1943

I like to go down to the boathouse by the lake whenever I’m sad or frustrated. I often sit here when I’m writing to you too. It’s calming and I’m all alone with my thoughts. It’s easier to forget my circumstances when I’m sitting here by the water.

It would be nice having you here too, but sadly it’s too dangerous. I’m not the only who knows this place exists. But it would be easier to talk and share stories if you were here with me. Maybe one day, Dane. Maybe one day we can sit together and talk without the fear of being found out.

From Lion.

To Lion, 2 May 1943

There’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while and something I never thought I’d hear myself say, especially to someone like you. I miss you. I miss you so much, and I think we should meet up.

I know it’s a huge risk and I understand if you don’t want to… but I just want to see your face again. It’s been so long since I talked to a real friend.

From Bear.

To Bear, 4 May 1943

Tomorrow, midnight, in the ally. You know which one.

From Lion.

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